T.J. Clark considers the particular effect of Goya's drawings on view in the exhibition Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album at the Courtauld Gallery, London, on view through May 25, 2015.
Clark notes: "Repetition and variation in [Goya's] drawings – each one intense and definitive, monotony coexisting with inventiveness – lead nowhere. That is what seems immediately ‘modern’ about them, and what puts most pressure on our notion of (our hopes for) art. Repetition and variation in the albums do not open out into a steadily broadening range of emotion, or a deepening sense of identification and sympathy. There seem to be difficult things in the world, like old age and human cruelty and petty malice and the ugliness of lust, to which I (Goya) am drawn, and which I can’t put down – can’t get used to. ‘Repetition compulsion’ doesn’t quite capture it, since in Goya there is never a feeling of the trauma being dwelled on in order to be mastered. There’s not even the feeling that the horror is a trauma, or that drawing necessarily lessens it. Maybe the opposite. It isolates it; it specifies it; it gives it the blank of the page to live in."